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Erasure's Andy Bell on HIV, Sexual Confusion & Alison Moyet

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Saturday, January 22, 2005
"I was a fanatic of Yazoo, I had all the vinyl albums and also followed Alison when she released Alf. And because I was such a huge Alison fan, I didn't think, and I still don't think, that my voice came anywhere near hers. Mine is so different, I'm like a tenor whereas she's this bluesy, ballsy woman who sings from her guts."

18 years after he stepped into Alison Moyet's shoes to form Erasure with Vince Clarke, Andy Bell admits he still feels in awe of the singer, despite enjoying a massively successful career that's far eclipsed Yazoo.

"I still wish I could have the depth she has, she walks on stage and just sings it off the cuff," he continues.

"I used to rehearse to her records and also Siouxsie & The Banshees, so when I started with Erasure I was very self conscious of not being able to fill her shoes. When we got the comparisons I was shitting myself, I thought there was no way I could match her. I could mimic her superficially but not go the whole hog."

Despite his reservations, he's also extremely upbeat about Erasure's brand new studio album Nightbird, the duo's first fresh material in 4 years (excepting their covers album).

"It's quite amazingbut I now feel like we've earned some respect, especially going out to clubs like The Cock," says Andy.

"But the only reason I feel like that is because I respect myself nowadays. Nightbird feels like a top and tail from the first album to this one and I feel quite secure these days. I was going through the live set the other day, starting with Hideaway, then No Doubt from this album, then Circus and Drama, and it was all flowing together, making me think "bloody hell, this sounds so good and so fresh altogether'. It worked as a body of music which made me think we're not just a singles band, I hope not anyway. It felt like we have a coherent body of work."

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): It's been four years since you released brand new Erasure material, was it easy starting writing again-

Erasure: "Yes it was quite easy. We did the writing in two blocks, I went to New York twice, once for when we did the acoustic album then also last February when it was freezing cold. I did the all the vocals for Nightbird at the same place, in a basement studio in Brooklyn. That was about a year ago so we had half the songs done then."

Skrufff: Do you have a particular procedure you adopt for song-writing-

Erasure: "Not really, it's more like meeting up with your mates, it still feels like that, where you going round there and trying to write some songs. You go round Vince's house, he's got everything organised, he makes you some food then we get down to it, on the guitar or piano. He saves up chords, ie he's been fiddling around working out chord combinations, which he saves up for me. He'll play those combinations and I'll sing melody lines over the top until we think it sounds nice, then we'll record it into the mcro-cassette. After that, we'll either carry on working with it, if it seems to be going somewhere, or we'll get some more chords and try and put them together. If we've got a whole song, I'll learn it and try and sing the whole thing through there and then, doing some nonsense words. Otherwise, if it's bitty, he puts it into his computer and swaps it all around."

Skrufff: Do you feel that the songs belong to you-

Erasure: "Yeah I do and actually I was getting really sick of doing other people's songs, I didn't feel comfortable doing them live, I must admit. I felt a bit phoney and felt like I was cheating the fans a bit and selling out a bit. Though that partly worked because the point of the experiment was to deconstruct other people's music and see how that worked. I didn't like it so much, it was more Vince's thing. But it made me so sick of doing those songs that I wanted to do something fresh. It didn't feel like we were struggling hard like it did with Love Boat and Cowboy."

Skrufff: Some of your songs are now 20 years old and are still pla